This was advertised on Facebook and it looked interesting, an easy going untimed cycle ride organised by the CTC for the price of £5. I haven’t done too much with the CTC, probably the last time was a year ago when I joined a joined local CTC off road ride crossing the Adur as many times as possible around Billingshurst. It was a good day out, very muddy and wet, fortunately it was the Highway I that I used that day (infact, the Royal had not yet been purchased at that point). Even so, while it was a good day out, I spent an age cleaning the bike up afterwards, and with a good 40 mile round trip to get to the starting point and back home, it was a long day. It seemed mostly organised by the Horsham branch who seem to be quite active on the internet with ride reports most weeks. There is a more local CTC group to me but their website seems a bit out of date with no rides since May time – Brighton CTC I have never really thought about.
The Brighton Breezy ride by Brighton CTC was an event open to everyone with a choice of 70km or 100km, which in English money meant either 43 miles or 62 miles, adding on 20 miles to get to the start and from the end point at Falmer. A paid event, but for £5 it didn’t seem too much to spend and when it came to it I found out it was a very good deal indeed. To add to it, the Lewes cycle group who I have gone out on rides with decided to pick it up as their Sunday ride too, I would then be going with friends.
In my normal great planning I left it right up to the last days to register, followed up with an email to confirm that payment was on its way and I would be there! The starting and ending point was at the University of Brighton at Falmer, a University campus I was more than familiar with having lived there as a student in the early 90s – although since then it has changed a lot. So much so that when the day came I found myself pretty much lost on the site, not a building was familiar but just the odd hill and tree I recognised I used to look out of from my dorm window (it is now the main road in and out!). “In my day”, no students had cars and the site seemed very rural, now it seemed the middle of a massive city complete with a huge stadium as if it has just landed from space (and looking still very much out of place against what was once the small and pretty village of Falmer). Falmer station, although servicing both Sussex and Brighton Uni for many years was in my memory as a small country station, now featured automated barriers and massive pathways for the massive football crowed fenced in both sides to shuttle them to and from games. A shame, but progress maybe? Maybe that’s enough on my love of football.
The week had not gone well, on the Friday the Highway got a massive puncture in the rear tyre which meant stopping a good 5 times on the way to work… in the wind and the rain. An attempted repair during my lunch hour failed, the hole was around a previously patched hole (a bit suspect) and there was no hope in putting on another patch. I fitted my spare which I carry all the time with the idea of picking up a new one on Saturday ready for Sunday, I noticed Halfords carried the tube I needed, I did not notice that Halfords closes early on a Saturday. By 6 o’clock the shop was closed and I was left with the idea of 100km the next day with no spare tube. Looking at statistics it should not had been a problem, infact the Royal has never had a puncture even though it was spent a lot of its time travelling over some very rough cycle paths. Another thought was if/when the Royal does finally get a puncture it is probably going to be quite a job getting the tough Schwalbe Marathon tyres off, lets hope when it happens it happens in a good spot, by a tea shop.
With all bikes shops closed the only place left was Tescos, who had plenty of tubes but none that fit my pump or the wheels. In the end I picked up the only 700c x 32 sized tube they had which was fine apart from it having a Presta valve. I’m pretty sure the valve type would fit, but was not sure how to convert my pump to fit the valve. When I got it home I gave it a try, I even watched a guide on YouTube, but I couldn’t convert the pump. In the end I took the tube out of the Highway, folded it up and put it in the bag for the trip, with a note to myself to buy new tubes as soon as I got back!
As I sat eating breakfast I decided to check the weather. It suggested there may be a bit of a rain and as I looked out of the window the rain started as if by magic. Only small bits, but enough for me to pack something waterproof. I set off, 5 miles down the road it started to rain like there was no tomorrow, I had to convince myself that I was now getting rather wet and so stopped to deploy waterproofs with the thought of how will the rest of the day go in such conditions. By the time I had changed and started off again, the sun came out with it still raining hard, moments later it stopped. Strangely, by the time I got to Falmer it was sunny and I was completely dry!
Arriving at Falmer I was met by registration and asked if I would like a cup of tea, of which I answered yes. It would be the first of many times throughout the day where I saw my entry fee of £5 had been well spent and how much of a good organised event they had put together. Others from Lewes soon turned up and we all got ready to get off on the second group, sensibly the event organisers had opted to set off small groups every 10 minutes instead of a massive free for all. It was good to see the mixture of bikes and people, from very serious looking bikes and riders to the more casual, including one bloke on a unicycle (he started 10 minutes before we did and we caught him up a couple of miles down the road)
The ride to the first cake stop was along straight forward familiar roads, the GPS showed me the way but the arrows placed on the side of the road meant I never had to use it apart to see how many miles to the next way point, or to check my speed. It never rained but we did go through wet sections where I discovered no-one in our group had mud guards apart from me. You soon learn not to ride completely behind someone else in such situations unless you want to be covered in mud and water!
It was not long until we got to the first stop. With the only organised event I had been on before being the London to Brighton Night Ride by the Heart Foundation I was expecting to see an over crowded stopping point where you would have to battle through loads of people to get a banana before going back to find your bike and getting off again. This was much different, a nice little village hall with cups and saucers and tables stacked full of sandwiches and cakes. Again, the £5 entry fee I was seeing being by now completely spent, with such well thought out organisation, support and food it seemed a bargain even if the price was double! The village hall was turned into super efficiency with massive tea pots supplying endless hot tea, sandwiches and cakes continued to come out of the kitchen to replace any gaps on the tables, such organisation and support not seen since WW2 on the catering front. What is more, it was good tea, it was good sandwiches, and it was very good cake. The GPS showed me later that we spent a good 40 minutes here.
For the next section we had the choice of taking the short route back to Falmer or the extended route up and around coming back to the village hall of cake. We had all chosen before starting to continue for the 100km route so when it came to the junction we said good bye to some who had accompanied us from Falmer and we had been chatting too. We were warned that the second part was nothing like the first, prepare yourself for hills we were told. Looking a the map the night before I noted where it took us and mentally knew it would be mostly uphill until it looped back down. We soon hit the first uphill and it was the theme for the rest of this extended part of the ride (I’m sure we never went downhill, just always up and up). It was not long until our group had segmented and plodded on upwards on my own noting that along the way I met no-one else or no-one else overtook me (had everyone else known better?). The Sussex group being as they are waited for me at points where we regrouped before carrying on (uphill), much thanks to them. I must say I did stop to walk up a small section, but no-one was around which meant it didn’t really happen and so didn’t count, I was soon back on the bike again.
It seemed that they were not even really steep hills (when I think of places like Cornwall), it just seemed to be never ending and with the thought that I may be holding others up I probably went harder than I would had done if I had been on my own. Thoughts of my journey back from Kent the other month on a fully loaded bike up some pretty steep hills there I took my time were with me quite a bit. As time went by and I found myself with no-one in front and no-one behind for what seemed like ages I started to relax a bit and pace myself and my speed to get things slower but gradual, like I had done on that Kent trip. Things became easier.
I finally made it back to the village hall, I signed in and noted I was only five minutes behind the rest of the group. That was quite satisfying to see, when you loose sight of your group you feel they must be miles ahead when in fact they are normally just round the corner. Hills through, they are a bit of a pig. On my daily ride in and from work I encounter a lot of wind (being on the sea front right next to the pebbles from the beach) but never any hills. Growing up in the Fens, hills were never a feature but again wind was. So it seems I can handle wind, but hill climbing is just something I never come across.
The second tea and cake stop was a as good as the first, the sandwiches and cakes had thinned out a bit but the tables were still being replenished with back up sausage rolls still hot from the oven. The tea pot was still going strong. We all concluded that it had been a pretty hard section, and we all spent another good 40 minutes at the stop (according to GPS times) before setting off for the final ride back to Falmer.
The wind had picked up a bit and it was noticeably cooler. We had what seemed like a long section going past Laughton along a rather busy and wide looking B road. It was the Laughton steam show which meant we had regular sightings of old motorbikes and cars as they left the show for the day, it made that particular stretch a bit more pleasant.
We continued on, the busier roads contributed to the quieter ride back, the turning of the weather and the long uphill trip had meant we were all eager to finish off. At Lewes we said goodbye to most of the group (who had started at Lewes) and the remainder continued onto Falmer along the dreaded Lewes to Falmer section. It is only two miles but always feels much more like 10, a gradual uphill with the wind against you and traffic coming towards you at 70mph. It’s a cycle path along the side of the road but the surface is pretty bad, it is never a nice section.
All the remaining cakes and sandwiches had made their way back to great us as the finish line, along with more cups of tea. Never has tea ever tasted so good, today each cup (around about 8 in total) had tasted like the best tea in the world. We compared notes from the day, congratulated Brighton CTC for a great event, well organised, great food. It will be interesting to see how many people went on the ride, for a lot of it we seemed mostly on our own and so it was all very well spaced out, there is nothing worse than hitting cycle traffic jams at key points.
I decided I would get the train back home, not really fancying the last 12 miles along a windy seafront. As it turned out, public transport and Sundays do not mix, along with public transport and bikes. As I waited at Falmer station for the one hourly service I got talking to another CTC member who had just come off the ride where we talked about the day and agreed on a good event organised. Two hours later I was home, it started to rain (very heavy).
Next time, I’ll bike the last reamaining miles, or even walk. Either way, it would take less time than catching the train. May that be a lesson learnt for wimping out at the last miles.
Total Miles: 77
Number of uphills: 10000s
Number of downhils: 0
Number of sandwiches, cakes, cups of tea: 10000s
Number of unicycles spotted: 1
Number of Sunday Trains: 1 an hour through the network